[#pictureLent] Mar. 20: A Stone's Throw

By Ryan Hall
Fleming Island UMC, Fleming Island, FL
 

First, read John 8:7

The little rock curved gracefully across the deep blue of the schoolyard sky. I watched with growing unease as it traveled its high arc and, falling, began to pick up speed. It hit Abby Locke right in the nose.

Abby was my on-again, off-again crush in 8th grade, and I had thrown the rock. Kenji, who had pressured me to throw it at Abby because we both liked her, was laughing gleefully, but I was being eaten alive by guilt. How could I have done that? I am not the type of person to throw rocks at people.

In contrast, it seems the people being addressed by Jesus in John 8:7 were exactly those types. In a street-side court, experts in sacred law were clutching their rocks and pressuring Jesus to give his verdict. The shamed woman before them was obviously guilty—they had caught her in the act!

Instead of taking the bait Jesus was sitting down and writing in the sand. These prosecutors were infuriated, and the stones were getting heavy, so again they demand an answer.

The more we look into this scene, the more it stinks. Socially and civically speaking neither Jesus nor her accusers had any authority over this woman's life. Why is she still naked? How is it that these devoutly religious men happened to come across this woman and her lover? And where is the man? The laws require the lives of both the woman and the man, so where is he?

But this just gets us off track. The missing lover’s location is not important. Where is Jesus? He is right in the middle of scene. He is not intimidated, embarrassed, or in any way on edge. He is at ease, present with the sinful woman, and the sinful men.

Jesus is calmly taking on the burden of all that guilt. Perhaps that relates to what he is writing? Jesus does not back down or back away. In the sharing of our sin and guilt he "overcomes what overwhelms us.[1]" Calmly he stands, gives his judgment and diffuses the scene.

 Abby Locke still has a small scar on the side of her nose. Though she forgave me long ago, I have a corresponding scar on my heart. It works both ways.

Whether you are the one throwing or the one being hit, the rocks bring real damage. Still Jesus sits right here, calmly present in our shared guilt. Jesus remains central, and he brushes away our guilt, just as easily as that long-forgotten writing in the sand.

Prayer: God, forgive us for the things we have done that place us in this scene, as accusers and accused. Forgive us for the stones we have thrown, and forgive us for our resentment toward those who have thrown stones at us. If you, O God, were to write down all of our faults, who could stand? We rejoice that our flaws and our failings are written in sand, easily wiped away by Jesus' hands. Amen.

Discussion Questions

  1. Who are the naked and guilty ones in front of you and your church right now? Who is holding the stones?
  2. How are you like these two groups?
  3. What might you do to follow Jesus example in this scene?

 

[1] From Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Sermon for Advent Sunday, December 2, 1928, found in, God is in the Manger, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012), 37.